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~Permit conditions represent most stringent and comprehensive ever issued by DEP; direct result of collaboration between the regulator, the regulated business and the environmental community~

JACKSONVILLE  - The Florida Department Environmental Protection issued a draft permit today for the industrial wastewater discharge of the Georgia Pacific (GP) facility in Palatka. This permit is not only more protective of the St. Johns River than the current permit, but also represents the most stringent and comprehensive industrial wastewater permit ever issued by the Department.
This draft permit serves as a renewal of the permit issued in 2002, along with an Administrative Order that required GP to relocate its wastewater from Rice Creek directly to the St. Johns River under certain conditions. 
“This permit was drafted using years of data and sound science and includes conditions that not only meet all requirements and obligations under existing law, but also contains additional significant improvements above and beyond the current permit,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “These commitments are the direct result of a collaboration between the regulator, the regulated business and the environmental community — a model that yielded success for the environment.”
The conditions included in this permit are in addition to GP’s investment of nearly $200 million in manufacturing improvements at the facility to significantly reduce groundwater consumption and effluent loading.
DEP has worked diligently with the facility, incorporating feedback from environmental and community stakeholders on the establishment of extensive changes to the mill’s manufacturing processes. The modifications and conditions in this draft permit have already resulted in a reduction in nutrients in the discharge, but also improvement in color, salinity and consumptive use of groundwater.
“The men and women at DEP were presented with a daunting task after realizing that  despite exhaustive monitoring and exploration of alternatives the GP discharge would not meet water quality standards in Rice Creek,” continued Secretary Vinyard. “I commend the hard working staff of this agency who have spent years of their lives analyzing data, reports and exploring alternatives to find ways to make this permit provide greater protection of the St. Johns River.”
Based on the implemented improvements, the mill has seen a reduction in water consumption from an average of 37 million gallons per day to an average of 23 million gallons per day.  Additional improvements include a 66 percent reduction in color  and a salinity reduction of 32 percent.
Monitoring also indicates a large reduction in nutrients, which will assist in overall efforts to restore the St. Johns River and reduce the potential for algal blooms so that the river can support healthy fish and wildlife population.  Monitoring results demonstrate a reduction in total nitrogen of 54 percent and 73 percent reduction of total phosphorus. GP currently surpasses its TMDL nutrient reduction obligations due to improvements in the quality of its discharge over the last several years.
To further ensure the River’s protection, the draft renewal permit requires the continuance of on-going water quality studies and the assessment of fish populations to monitor for any potential effects from the relocation of the effluent discharge to the St. Johns River.  GP is currently held to stringent discharge limits in its current permit, and there will be no increase in production or pollutant loadings in the renewal permit.
This renewal permit will further ensure that the relocation of the discharge will not negatively impact the St. Johns River, that GP will meet water quality standards in the river and that Rice Creek can be restored.
Public comment on the Draft Permit will be accepted through November 19. The public meeting will be held on Nov. 13, 2012 at Price-Martin Community Center in Palatka. 
For more information about the public meeting and a copy of the draft permit, visit the Northeast District website.